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2015 Grand National Roadster Show

by Dave on February 8, 2015

First, let me apologize for taking so long to post these photos. In this age of Instagram, folks expect to see pics posted within minutes of the show’s opening; for us dinosaurs still doing websites, it can take a few days. Especially when there are other irons in the fire (like new flatmotors, grandbabies, and the looming delivery of the Bill Evans coupe). Hell, it’s a wonder we find time to post anything.

There were a record 18 contenders for the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy this year; so many that they spilled into adjoining buildings. To cut to the chase, this year’s winner was a Bobby Alloway-built, Hemi-powered, ’33 roadster. Sporting dozens of modifications so subtle few of us could even spot them, the flamed roadster looked as if it had driven off the cover of Street Rodder magazine. I’m sure it‘s destined to drive back on. Exquisitely crafted as could be expected, it was also a very safe and non-controversial choice for the nine foot trophy.

Alloway 2015 AMBR

Other contenders included this tribute-build of the famous Grass Hopper roadster. If you’re anywhere near my age you remember building the Monogram model kit — and trying to keep from smearing glue on the hundreds of little chrome parts.

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Pinkee’s in Colorado built this Deuce roadster. Powered by a vintage Hemi, it featured a seemingly fussy accumulation of one-off parts that came together in a pleasing and well-proportioned package.

GNRS 2015_2This ’36 roadster (Ford’s last real roadster was a ’37) was done up Dry Lakes style. Owner Ross Meyers originally bought the car when he was 15.

GNRS 2015_3Over the last few years, Thee Inland Emperors car club has built and entered a number of popular AMBR contenders. Back in the day, car clubs often organized around the construction of a car to race or show. While the Emperors have yet to nail the nine foot trophy, in the eyes of traditionally-oriented attendees they’ve produced nothing but winners.  Emperor Dustin Smith’s mint green Model T was no exception. Built around a complete Model A driveline, including mechanical brakes, its tapered, handmade frame rails were perfectly proportioned to the tiny T body.

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Not an AMBR contender, but a beautiful roadster nonetheless, the Packard-inspired Mulholland Speedster came out of Troy Ladd’s Hollywood Hot Rods.

GNRS 2015_4Rotating displays used to be common at indoor car shows. This beautiful coach-built coupe twirled on the only turntable we saw.

GNRS 2015_5East Bay Speed and Custom built this tribute To Norm Grabowski’s seminal Lightnin’ Bug. It’s a shame later T-bucket builders turned a blind eye to this car’s wonderful stance and proportions.

GNRS 2015_6Another landmark car, the Pierson Brother’s ’36 three window, was meticulously restored by Bill Ganahl at South City Rod and Custom in Hayward.

GNRS 2015_7Two of my favorites in the Suede Palace were Ed Corvello’s Jingle Town Special and Greg Hopkins’ Model A coupe. Ed’s cool banger-powered tub is named for a historically ethnic and counterculture neighborhood in Oakland; Greg drove his coupe all the way out from Alabama for the show. The dual-grilled Zephyr was an oddity. Its patina looks as if it came from a splattering of brake fluid.

GNRS 2015_13 GNRS 2015_18 GNRS 2015_92015 is the 75th anniversary of the 1940 Ford and forty important ‘40’s from a number of different eras were on display.

GNRS 2015_10 GNRS 2015_11Built in the 1950’s, this Cad-powered ’40 coupe was collector Al Engle’s first hot rod. Al, a Bay Area Joker and Santa Cruz Woodie guy, gave me a tour and the interior gave me a jolt of nostalgia. My dad dug this maroon/white combo and used it in cars he built.

GNRS 2015_12If it’s the same car, I have an old photo of this Olds woodie on my shop wall (poppin’ a parachute at the end of a drag strip). There couldn’t be two of these cars…  The chopped, purple-paneled Pontiac was pretty crazy, the VW bus was pretty silly, and the red coupe was just plain nice and simple.

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Two of my favorites were off in a side building, out of the limelight. Chris Casny’s roadster makes me want to yank the roadster pick-up sheet metal off my chassis and drop a roadster down in its place. Robert Lomas’ white, channeled, ’33 three window had perfect proportions, ‘cause that’s how Robert Lomas builds ’em. I really liked the color, too. Along with the Pierson Bros. coupe, I bet it’ll inspire a new wave of white hot rods.

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The big buzz going around the show wasn’t about the cars, it was about the return of Hop Up magazine. Originally published in 1951 Hop Up enjoyed a second revival in 2000 when publisher Mark Morton brought it back for ten issues. Speaking the truth (En Hop Up Veritas) to “nineteen hairy-legged readers,” Hop Up’s traditionalist content immediately made other magazines irrelevant. After Issue X, Mark sat on the title until he found new owners to whom he could pass the torch. When it comes to tradition, the new publishers, Tim Sutton, John Gunsaulis, Justin Bass and Marcy Molkenthen, totally get it; Hop Up couldn’t be in better hands. You can check out the new website — and sign up for a subscription — here.


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